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Issue 666

11/14/2013 at 5:25pm

Sand Sculpting Championships ReturnSand Sculpting Championships Return

Next weekend marks the beginning of the 27th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championships here on Fort Myers Beach. Starting November 22 and running through December 1, the 10-day festival is packed with events to keep you coming back for more. The American Championships is the largest sand sculpting event in Florida and one of the largest in the world. It is also the longest running. Quite a distinction for our island community. There is a lot of preparation, planning and cooperation that goes on between various businesses and organizations here on the beach to make the American Championships not only one of the largest but also one of the most exciting.

Bill and Marianne Knight of "The Sand Lovers” are organizing the competition side of this year’s event. Their involvement in the event started back in 2001. Their career as professional sand sculptors began by "playing around” as amateurs. Then they started winning amateur competitions, moving up in the ranks through advanced amateurs and in 2009 they started competing in sand sculpting events on the Master’s level. In recent years they have joined with Big C Events, the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, Pinchers Crab Shack and The Wyndham Garden (formerly the Holiday Inn) to expand the American Championships and make every day of the festival filled with interesting and informative events.

Over 1000 tons of sand will be used in the course of the festival. Moving all that sand is no small task. The Knights work in collaboration with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to devise a plan for harvesting the sand. It is then scraped from sections of the beach and brought to the sculpting sites. After the festival is over it is returned from whence it came, leaving our beach beautiful and healthy for years to come. Keeping the balance of tourism and a healthy ecosystem is vital for the industry and beauty of our island.

As to the organizing of the competition itself, there is no overarching governing body like in professional sports. Each festival is managed independently. There are three levels of competition at the American Championships: Masters, Advanced Amateur and Amateur. The amateur competition is open to beginners with no prior experience. Registration will be held 9:00-9:45am on Nov. 24t.h and the competition starts at 10:00am. Registration is $15.00 and takes place on site. The competition is broken down by age, with different categories focusing on a different sea animal as a sculpting theme (e.g. children under age 8, the theme is sea turtles).

The Florida State Championship (Advanced Amateur) begins on Friday, November 29th. Ten advanced amateurs will test their sand sculpting skills. To compete in the Advanced Amateurs each applicant must submit a portfolio of their work and have placed first in more than one amateur competition. Then a group of Master Sand Sculptors reviews their work and decides if they are ready to compete on the Advanced Amateur level. The Masters level is reserved for those artists who have at least 10 years of experience and is by invitation only. A group of 4 Master Sculptors will judge this years Advanced Amateurs. If they take first place and meet the other criteria they will be reviewed to see if they are ready for the Masters level.

Sixteen Master Sculptors will compete for the title, "American Solo Champion” beginning on opening day, Nov. 22nd, culminating in the Solo Awards on Sunday, Nov. 24th at 4:30pm. Those sculptures will remain on display for the duration of the event.

The Doubles Division competition begins on Wednesday, November 27th as ten Master Sculptors compete in teams of two for the title, "American Doubles Champion.” The Doubles Awards ceremony will be held on the last day, Sunday, Dec. 1 at 4:30pm.

One of the events that the Knights have helped add in the past few years is the Quick Sand Competition. In this event two sculptors are on stage each with their own podium and five-pound bucket of sand. The sculptors are introduced, the audience picks a subject, and the artists are given ten minutes to create a completed sculpture. After the audience judges the completed works, one artist is eliminated. The winner moves on to the next round. These events are going on throughout the entire festival, so each day holds something new to see. There will also be a chainsaw artist, Rod Green. No, he won’t be chain sawing through sand, but in ten minutes he will take a log and turn it into a work of art. He has something like 12 chainsaws, so if anyone thinks that sand sculpting is too quiet for them, there is always the chainsaw event to check out.

Opening day, Friday, Nov. 22 will be Make-A-Wish Day with a portion of proceeds from gate admission going to Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. For over 33 years, this group has been granting wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. The organizers of the American Championships believe in their mission and invite everyone to visit the event on opening day to help support Make-A-Wish.

Sand sculpting classes as well as talks by competitors will also be ongoing throughout the festival. It is fascinating to hear how these disparate people from all over the world have come to be Masters of this unique art form. Amazin Walter has been a sand sculptor for over 20 years and started his career at his home in South Padre Island, Texas. Bret Stocker is originally from Kenya. Carl Jara, a 13-time World Champion, is a trained artist and graphic designer from Cleveland, Ohio who also uses his skills at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History working on the instillation of dinosaur fossils. Melineige Beauregard, from Montreal, will be competing at the American Championships for the first time this year. She is primarily an ice and snow sculptor but has won 5 major sand sculpting competitions this year. Last April she competed in the Sand Bash and won first place in the first ever all female sand sculpting competition; making her the top female sand sculptor in the world.

Between checking out the various sand sculpting events, be sure to browse through the Sand Vendor Village located just outside the fence. Various vendors will be offering handmade crafts, jewelry, tasty treats, beach essentials and other wares. Canadian recording artist Nick Beauregard will perform live music throughout the festival. Pick up the Sand Paper’s November Entertainment Magazine before or at the event for the complete schedule.

If you are bringing the family there will be children’s activity areas compete with bounce houses, water slides, climbing walls and a special sand filled area with sculpting tools where the kids can create their own works of art.

New this year, is the "Sand Shuffle,” a pre-event passport program withfiveparticipating locations: Seminole Casino ofImmokalee, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, DiamondHead Resort, Fish-TaleMarina and the Wyndham Garden Hotel Fort Myers Beach. Each location will have atwo-ton sand sculpture prior to the event.Pick up your passport at any of them and have them stamped at each location.

Kidsare invited to take part in the Sand Shuffle Scavenger Hunt. Each Sand Shuffle sculpturehas a question. Have your passport stamped or answer questions at 3 or more sculptures before Nov. 22 you can enter a drawing to win great prizes. To enter, bring your completedpassports to the main entrance of the 2013 American SandSculpting.

With such exciting events, interesting personalities, and amazing works of art being crafted each day, this is one event you won’t want to miss. The American Championships will be open every day from 10am-5pm. Admission is only $5.00 per person but children 4 and under get in free. Free parking will be available at the Lovers Key parking area. Check out the website for details and for information on special discounts at area attractions for festival attendees. Mobile users can text SAND to 71441 for instant updates on all the happenings at this year’s event.

Anastasia Marchese